(Note: This letter was originally sent to the Aspen City Council.)
Aspen has faced the scale of the village, protecting residential neighborhoods and finding ways to expand affordable housing over the past four decades. As with all attractive tourist destinations in America, many of our second home owners and residents rented on a short-term basis to supplement condos, hotels and small lodges, and to cover the costs of their second homes.
They are subject to the rules and regulations adopted by the local government. Aspen became a commodity in the mid-1980s when people came to Aspen not just for the unique lifestyle and quality of life, but to own, improve, build and profit from the sale and rental of real estate. The emergence of VRBO and Airbnb as primary rental sources has dramatically changed the rental landscape.
COVID has ironically caused the phenomenon of city dwellers fleeing to beautiful, safe resort towns, like Aspen, and real estate prices have skyrocketed. Please don’t go overboard with your changes, when many problems have been caused by the recent pandemic, and already the natural ebbs and flows of our economy are slowing things down.
It was no surprise that the Aspen City Council decided to call a timeout. The city worked hard and with all the necessary haste.
Unsurprisingly, the city extended the moratorium for two months. Resolution of short-term rental issues is underway at all Colorado ski resorts and attractive tourist communities elsewhere.
However, not allowing new short-term rental licenses to be issued is too restrictive. Those who got their STR licenses late last year were lucky to be under the wire. Not everyone was so lucky.
Limiting the number of demolitions per year to six seems absurd. It would be a Wild West spectacle on January 1 each year as homeowners rush to submit their demolition applications. I would suggest the following workable exceptions: With the exception of Victorian and post-WWII homes, all homes over 50 years old could be automatically razed; all homes under 1,500 square feet could be automatic.
I would strongly advise against dramatically increasing the cost of the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee for all new residential developments. Not all affordable housing fees can be increased on the backs of new residential developers.
Please be open, thoughtful and responsive in public hearings. That’s what a public hearing is for — to make the voice of citizens heard in your process.